”It is not what I wish.”

”What you wish has no merit in this instance, Jedrek.”

The young Calloway, second to his name, stared down at the parchment upon the wooden desk. The crimson red wax seal beneath their King’s flourish of a signature felt more like an imprisonment than a revelation, the stamp that could forever seal Jedrek Calloway II’s fate, and his family’s along with it.

When word reached him that an advisor with a royal summons was in their hall, Jedrek thought for sure his indiscretion, if one could call it that, had come to light. But there had been no army standing outside. Just this damned piece of rolled parchment and that crimson wax stamp.

Lifting the life sentence, Jedrek read the words once more. It was his tenth time through it with his father’s gaze cooly on his back.

”His Majesty, King Lochlan Niclouse Philippos Farrand-Calhoun hereby requires Lord Jedrek Calloway II to present himself for review before His Majesty on the Twentieth day in the month of November to contest upon the seat left vacant by the former Yarwood House.”
His stomach clenched at the written words.

”Reading it again will not change the words, lad.”

Jedrek rolled his blue eyes as he dropped the paper and watched it flutter down to the desk’s surface once more before turning to his father. They were of equal height now, when once upon a time, Jedrek had to look up at the intimidating tower of a man. ”And if I refuse? There are better men than me likely to be in consideration, men worthy of the position and… slavery.”

The old man scoffed, the white of his whiskers bristling beneath the out breath. ”Refuse who? My orders or your King’s? You do not refuse your King. If he chooses you, when he chooses you, Jedrek, you will bow before him in fealty, kiss his ring, and bloody well take what is yours.”

Jedrek’s jaw clenched, the muscles pronounced with each movement as he stewed over his father’s words. All he had wanted was to live in peace, with minimal responsibility. Taking Belle as his wife would have offered that, it had offered that for the short period that they had the luxury of fine living with minimal exertion.

”And if he does not? If I am found not worthy of the title?” His chin rose in defiance.

His father did not bite, but with a straight face and stoic gaze said, ”Then you shall have no title, or home, to return to.”

Jedrek’s eyes narrowed at the threat. ”You bluff,” he scoffed.

”I do not. No first born of mine will knowingly throw an opportunity like this to the wind, out of laziness no less.” The older Lord Jedrek circled his broad desk before pulling out the high backed chair and settling in, all the while never taking his eyes off his insolent son. ”You will learn one way or another. Now, Mrs. Wattlesbrooke is waiting for you in your quarters, to tame that wild beast above your shoulders. Best get to stepping.”